Good UI = ROI
One of the most common scenarios I work through with clients is outlining how to achieve ROI through a good interface. Meaning, each time your user performs an action on your site or application, what are you giving them in return? Think about it this way:
From the perspective of the User Experience, often times first generation sites and applications had UI’s designed by a development team. Resultantly the interfaces commonly have too many options for users, too much noise surrounding critical features, and low ROI for each click the user makes. A User Experience expert often times needs to perform an audit of your UI to focus the UI to support key functionality. The goal, always being:
- How do we make it easy for a user to do something important on your application?
- What UI would add clarity and creativity to a user’s goal when using your site or application?
I’ve outlined the high level questions I ask in a typical UI audit below. It’s worthwhile to take a minute and look at your own site or application and see how your answers compare.
What’s the most important thing for a user to do on your site or application?
You have to define exactly what you want your user to achieve on your site. For example, if I am Target.com, I want people to purchase something. So you focus on the process between an item and checking out and try to boil that down to as few clicks as possible. This is why we have things like 1-click buying from Amazon. They simply want to make that process frictionless.
Do you clearly lead them to that goal with as few clicks as possible?
As an extension of the question above, this is about 3 things:
Most often, users are simply presented with too many options, too many ways to do similar things, and too much content. You have to make sure your site is logical and organized. Give a user one way to do a specific action and make it consistent throughout the application. If you have a feature that lets a user edit a post, make it a consistent button and button placement throughout the application.
Clarity is about providing the user with direction. In the Target.com examples, a user is driving a car on the road from A to B. A is the product page and B is a completed checkout. You need to provide a user with good road signs to make sure they don’t get lost. For example, if you are asking a user to complete a form that has 3 steps, you should clearly display that they are on the first step of three.
Communicating with users is all about confirming their expectations. A simple example would be a user clicking the “save” icon while editing a document. A user feels better if the application tells them their changes have been made, either by graying out the save icon or presenting a message on the screen saying something to the effect of “Changes Saved.” Often times, applications fail to effectively communicate results of users action and fail to train them in that opportunity. Meaning, if someone clicks an icon and it does not do what she expects it to, you want to tell her what actually happened so she will learn and not use that icon for that action in the future.
Do you communicate with them during the process?
It’s important to remember communication is obviously not limited to just messages on the screen. It’s about listening, learning, and helping. In the context of the UI, you have to incorporate methods of listening into your application. This could be analytics components like Google Webmaster or could be forms that allow users to submit feedback—whatever the form, it has to be telling you something. And from that, it should teach you something. Here’s a common example regarding Google Webmaster.
- The client comes in and wants to reduce the total number of wrong clicks for their user in publishing a news article.
- By setting up custom variable tracking, we can do things like count the number of “back button” clicks happen (a good indicator of a user performing an action they did not intend to do).
- Over time, if we see that number go down, we know we are reducing the number of wrong clicks.
Communication begins with being able to understand a) what you are trying to learn from your users and b) what are you doing to help them teach you? If I know a statistic will tell me something, then I should create a function to track that variable. If I can solve a problem, I am helping all of my users.
Do you reward them?
Pure and simple: Do you give them something when they complete a goal? I don’t mean send them a present, but, for example:
- Does publishing a news article in your site or application make the user like they accomplished a task?
- When they published that news article, did the application require the least amount of effort from the user to achieve that task?
If a user is singing up for your service, when they complete their account creation, make it feel like they have joined something of value. Think of how many sites have terrible sign up experiences compared to those that have elegant, simple sign up forms. It’s the successful services that will have the nice one because they understand a user has very limited time and patience, so getting someone to join Yelp in 4 actions vs. 6 is huge. Saving a user time is rewarding them as well.
A User Experience expert helps to minimize any effort a user is required to do to get something back. For example, I encounter sign up forms with 20 questions and we end up with 3 input fields because the other 17 could be part of user preferences in the application or simply not even needed entirely. Taking 5 or 10 things off the user’s plate, you are rewarding them with time and increasing the ROI they get from using your service.
By examining the ROI you are presenting to your user, you can get a good glimpse into many aspects of your application. I always educate clients on these fundamentals because improvements in the UI that increase the ROI for the user always create value for the client. Remember a good User Experience expert can help you to pragmatically define a fundamentally good UI that promotes value in your user’s experience.
If you have any questions, feel free to email me at email@example.com